|Main Idea: The
technological innovation of printing had a great impact on all aspects of
society. This chapter surveys the development of printing and its
impact on the society, culture, individuals, religion and politics.
|Major steps in the
development of printing
for most of its history, humanity has relied on spoken rather than written
communication. This made it difficult to: share knowledge with a
large audience and required people to memorize vast amounts of
information. Skilled story tellers who could use mnemonic devices to
remember were a valuable part of the community. A mnemonic device is
a way of remembering something.
Development of written communication: A small number of
the world's spoken languages developed a system of writing to represent
its speech. The development of writing allowed important stories and
information to be recorded. It was especially important for
governments and religious institutions to have written records of
documents, laws, scriptures, etc.
- Written communication had little impact on society.
- Most people could not read.
- Producing a written copy was a very slow process since each copy had
to be done by hand.
- Outside of Spain, Europe of the Middle Ages had very few copies of
books. Some estimate that Europe had no more than a few thousand
volumes in the 10th Century. (Note, however, that the libraries of
Cordoba in Spain had as many as 600,000 volumes - all copied by hand!)
|Printing with Woodblocks: Wood block
printing basically required a skilled individual to carve the images and
words onto a block of wood. Ink could then be applied and the block
pressed against paper or parchment. This process was known as early as the
7th Century in China and developed in the 1300's in Europe.
- This was a slow process that could required a lot of work to carve
- It could only produce on page at a time.
- It was not well-suited to printing text.
|Moveable Type: Moveable type refers to
using an individual piece of wood, clay or metal for each letter or
character. It was pioneered by the Chinese using clay type in the
11th Century and the Koreans using metal type in the 14th Century. For a
number of reasons, moveable type was not used on a wide scale in Asia
until the 19th Century.
- In Europe, Johann Gutenberg is credited with perfecting moveable
type in the 1400's. His moveable type consisted of metal, interlocking
type set within a wood frame. The wine-press was modified to press the
type against a piece of paper.
- In addition to the wine press, other technologies were employed to
manufacture suitable ink and inexpensive paper instead of costly
- The perfection of moveable type made it possible to print thousands
of copies in less time than it would take an individual to make one
copy by hand. The first mass-produced items in Europe were books!
|The Impact of Printing:
|1. Expansion of Knowledge: The ability to share
knowledge with a large number of people encouraged a rational, critical
spirit that could analyze the knowledge and offer corrective
feedback. More time could be devoted to analysis, research and
reflection since no time was needed for memorization of information.
Religious: Publishing made the Protestant
Reformation possible. Through the printed word Martin Luther's
message reached a very large audience. Moreover, Luther emphasized the
importance of reading the scripture and thus created a demand for
printed versions of the Bible in the language of the people while
diminishing the need for "experts" (priests).
3. Political: The Protestant Reformation along with a
new critical spirit destroyed the political/religious unity of Europe.
As documents were printed in the native language a new sense of
nationalism emerged. Critical thinking challenged old authorities
such as the Catholic Church.
4. Economic: The spread of
Protestantism was accompanied by the spread of capitalism. (Remember
Calvinism!). Moreover, printing made literacy an important skill
through which businesses could learn about new ways, legal matters, and
5.Psychological: Reading is an private
activity in contrast to story-telling. Moreover, books establish
the reader as the central reference point. Consequently a stronger
sense of the individual self emerged. Reading also reinforced sequential
|Newspapers and Public Opinion
Several important technological innovations were made to the
printing press that allowed rapid type setting and printing. The
most important were:
- The steam-powered printing press - London 1813
- The use of a rotating cylinder to hold type - 1846
- Linotype machine - automatic type-setting of entire
lines - 1886.
These innovations made it possible to produce daily newspapers with
circulations in the tens of thousands. The mass circulation of
newspapers gave them the ability shaped public opinion.
- "Yellow Journalism" stressed the bizarre, scandals,
sensational. This sensationalism was often caused by intense
competition between rival newspapers - especially between William
Randolph Hearst (NY Journal) and Joseph Pulitzer (NY World).
- Editorial policies of papers also influenced the public's
understanding: in the late 1890's the editorial policies of major
papers helped to develop a public demand for war against Spain.
|(NOTE: If you want to know more about yellow journalism,
its origins and the role of the newspaper in leading America into the
Spanish American war, visit: http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20011004